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Home | Looking Back with Aurore Eaton

E. W. Harrington Jr. — A life in the spotlight

August 12. 2014 12:47AM

Edward W. Harrington Jr. was the central figure in the creation and operation of the Manchester Opera House, completed in 1881.

He and his family were charter investors in the Manchester Opera House Company, which owned the theater, and they also invested in the Harrington-Smith Block that surrounded the theater building. Edward was the Opera House Company’s treasurer and the theater’s manager. He was the indispensable person at the center of the hustle and bustle of the Manchester entertainment scene during the golden years between 1881 and the early 1900s.

During this time period, the Manchester Opera House stood as one of the premier venues for stage entertainments in New England.

Edward was born in 1854 in Manchester. His father, the senior Edward W. Harrington (1816-1876), was the first restaurant owner in Manchester, a prosperous banker and an early mayor of the city. The younger Edward was born and grew up in the Harrington’s fine home on Hanover Street, located a little over a block east of Elm Street, the city’s main boulevard. After graduating from Dartmouth College in Hanover, Edward worked for a few years as a clerk in his father’s establishment, the City National Bank. In 1879 or 1880, he married Cora E. Smith, who was originally from central Maine.

In 1886, Edward’s mother, Margaret A. Bond Harrington (1827-1902), built the fine mansion that still exists at 45 Bay Street in Manchester’s fashionable North End. This was also Edward and Cora’s home. Edward’s sister Delana Harrington Curtis built a large house nearby, on Elm Street.

Edward accumulated considerable wealth through his involvement with the Manchester Opera House, and through real estate dealings and investments in stocks and bonds. He was the proprietor of the Nutfield Club, located in the west ell of the Harrington-Smith Block on Nutfield Lane.

The record is unclear as to what type of business this was, but it may be safe to assume that it was a restaurant that catered to Opera House patrons. Edward maintained an office there where he managed his real estate holdings.

He was as a genial person, active in several fraternal organizations in town. At the time of his death in March 1914, the Manchester Leader newspaper wrote, “He was to be seen in fair weather every day, at Hanover Street and Nutfield Lane, standing by the wall with his cane and chatting with friends.”

By 1907, Edward Harrington was no longer in charge of the Opera House. It was then known as the Auditorium, and was being used as a cinema and vaudeville theater.

His obituary paid tribute to the bygone glory days of his career, “The theatre was prosperous, prices were reasonable and the patronage came from all over this section. It was the finest playhouse of any in the state. In those years, Mr. Harrington gained a national reputation in the theatrical world as a progressive manager…”

Very little is known about Edward’s wife Cora E. Smith Harrington, who died in 1913.

It appears she may have been as quiet and reserved as her husband was sociable and extroverted. The couple had no children. They are buried next to each other in the Pine Grove Cemetery in Manchester.In his will, Edward bequeathed the bulk of his estate to his sister, Delana. He made a few special gifts, including giving his “big diamond ring, single stone in setting” to his cousin George W. Corliss, who had worked for many years as the box office manager of the Opera House.

He provided a large sum of cash to his young Swedish immigrant maid Alma B. Nelson Cushing and her husband Edward L. Cushing. To Edward Cushing, who was his personal secretary, he also transferred the ownership of the Nutfield Club.Edward Harrington provided $10,000 to erect a monument in the family plot in the Valley Cemetery in honor of his father.

His sister Delana had an elegant Egyptian-style mausoleum built on the plot. It was made of the finest gray granite from Barre, Vt., with an interior of Italian marble. This beautiful mausoleum can still be seen today, complete with its two large granite urns that stand on either side of its doorway.

Next Week: The intriguing tale of Delana Harrington Curtis..

Aurore Eaton is a historian and writer in Manchester, e-mail her at

Arts History Aurore Eaton Manchester

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